Cricket: Tourists hit by injuries

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The Independent Online
A FOUR-STRONG injury list before England A's tour has begun in earnest is the only blot on their landscape following Saturday's encouraging seven-wicket win over a strong Country Districts XI in Harare.

Paul Hutchison and Steve Harmison (back stiffness), Melvyn Betts (groin) and Robert Key (finger) were all unavailable for the first match of the tour of Zimbabwe and South Africa.

The tourists were dusting the cobwebs out of their system but England made the most of the time available before the first match and, given a little early rust which allowed the Zimbabweans to post 195 in their 50 overs, England were positive throughout.

The opening pair of Darren Maddy and Mal Loye got away to a fine start with a partnership worth 116 from 24 overs. With captain Michael Vaughan coming once Maddy departed, the Yorkshireman ensured there was no possibility of the innings losing momentum.

Maddy had reason to be pleased, having filled the bowling gap left by injuries with his occasional medium-pacers.

"I don't know how I get away with it to be honest, but these wickets tend to suit me being slow and low," the Leicestershire batsman said. "At my pace I try to bowl line and length and get a few to swing."

As for England's second match, against Zimbabwe Academy XI today, they will find themselves up against some familiar faces in Worcestershire's Nathan Batson and Mark Wagh, of Warwickshire, who are spending the winter at the Academy, which is run by the former Worcestershire coach Dave Houghton.

Batson played in three championship matches last season, while Wagh's 14 matches for Warwickshire and Oxford University produced two centuries and three fifties.

Scoreboard, Digest, page 20